Dogs/Beneful dog chow. and health.
I used to give my Shep/hound mix dog, Jake, Beneful Chicken for the first 1-1/2 yrs. of his life. Then, I was told that Beneful was full of Fillers, and not very healthy for my dog. My neighbors fed their dog Beneful Chicken all her life (18 yrs.), and she was always healthy and had a shiny, long-haired coat, and was a large dog. Since changing my dog, Jake, to Performatrin Chicken and Rice Chow, he has gotten a bad allergy. He chews and scratches his entire body, from his ears to his hind legs, chest and belly. He doesn't pull out his hair. No sores on him and no fleas. I am only assuming he has a food allergy, as this happens year round. He could also be allergic to dust, as our house is quite dusty from my husband working at home on cars. So, lately, I vacuum my carpets twice a week. Anyway, back to the Beneful. Is it O.K. to feed Jake that food, to see if he is allergic to it, also? Plus, what are Fillers?
You didn't say how long after changing diets the itching problem began. It's possible the itch and diet change isn't even related. I know you've said you haven't seen fleas, but fleas only spend part of their life cycle on a dog. If you part your dog's hair, do you see any black grains that look like pepper near his skin? If you see this, it's the waste product of fleas, which is more common than having food allergies.
It's true that Beneful isn't considered to be a quality dog food, it's a lot like a junk food diet for dogs. But it's possible for a dog to live a long happy life if they receive that food as their diet, just as many people survive on diets of fast food and soda. I think going back to Beneful to see if your dog's symptoms go away is a good idea (I was going to suggest just that). If your dog really has a food intolerance or allergy to the new diet, going back to the Beneful which was tolerated should do the trick.
If your dog's symptoms persist after 8 weeks of being back on the Beneful diet, you can rule out the Performatrin diet as the culprit. However, if your dog's itching problem is bad enough, you might want to have a vet examine him now, so that an anti-itch medication can be given, and your dog can get some relief, as well as prevent a secondary skin infection to occur from all the scratching. There are lots of other things that can trigger a dog's allergic skin disorder other than food ingredients: synthetic and natural fibers, medications and pharmaceutical products, your laundry detergent or household cleaners, plant material and even dust. Other materials your dog could be allergic to include carpeting, blankets, dust mites, mold spores in the air, pollen, plastic food dishes, furniture stuffing and ornamental plants.
If this turns out to be a food allergy, it's due to an ingredient in the new diet, not because you switched to a better quality food. You'd need to read labels to find a quality dog food your dog would tolerate, but it's worth it. Your dog is young, but having a poor diet can catch up to him later in life. The problems with Beneful are:
It contains added sugar. Sugar has a high glycemic index which means it can unfavorably raise the blood sugar level of any animal soon after it is eaten. To prevent Diabetes in a dog, it's recommended that a low glycemic index diet be fed.
It contains food moisturizer Propylene Glycol (the same stuff that's the key component in newer automotive antifreeze). Propylene Glycol has been banned by the FDA for use in making cat food, but it's still found in mostly lower quality dog foods. No matter how safe propylene glycol may seem, continuous day-after-day feeding of this chemical should be avoided!
It contains artificial coloring. It's put there to appeal to you, not your dog. It offers no benefit to your dog. In humans, artificial colors have been linked to allergies, behavioral problems and even cancer.
It doesn't contain a named source of fat. Simply listing a generic "animal fat" means that the fat used can come from almost anywhere anonymous, unidentified sources such as dead, dying, or diseased animals from ANY source (zoos, farms, animal shelters, etc.)
The minerals in Beneful do not appear to be "chelated", And that can make them more difficult to absorb. Non-chelated minerals are usually associated with lower quality dog foods.
It contains Menadione, a synthetic form of vitamin K3 linked to liver toxicity, allergies and the abnormal break-down of red blood cells. One company selling Menadione warns its human buyers that menadione is toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, mucous membranes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organ damage.
Vitamin K3 is not even listed as a required dog food ingredient in the nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. If your dog would eat some green leafy vegetables (such as chopped spinach mixed into his food) he'd get all the natural vitamin K3 he needs.
It doesn't contain high quality forms of protein, that you get from a diet with a named source of real meat (not by-products- which are slaughterhouse waste).
You asked about "fillers". They are inexpensive products like corn and corncobs, feathers, soy, cottonseed hulls, peanut hulls, citrus pulp, screening, weeds, straw, and cereal by-products. They have little or no nutritional value, and are added to decrease the overall cost of the food. Fillers can actually aggravate the intestinal walls instead of promoting good health. Fillers (and better quality ingredients across the board) are why the premium brands like Performatrin cost more.
When your dog's itchy problem has been resolved, you may want to give a better diet another go. You can use this on line dog food comparison tool to compare different brands by the ingredients they contain: http://www.californianaturalpet.com/pet-food-comparison
I hope I've been a help.
Best of luck,